Marcia Vilakazi

#Hashtag An Analysis of the # FeesMustFall Movement at South African Universities

"Student-led protests gained momentum in 2015/16 and spread across the country. The #FeesMustFall movement sparked heated debates on fee increases in universities. Other demands by students included the decolonisation of the educational system, transformation of universities to address racial and gender inequalities in terms of staff composition, as well as insourcing of general workers. The protests generally started peacefully within various universities, supported by academics and other concerned stakeholders. The message was clear that the costs of higher education were too high and unaffordable for the majority of poor black students. The #FeesMustFall movement was widely supported but things changed, especially when protests started turning violent. This report provides analyses of the #FeesMustFall protests in nine universities. One of the key arguments in this report is that student protests are not new in post-apartheid South Africa. Over the years, historically black universities have been characterised by multiple and violent student protests, well before the #FeesMustFall movement in 2015 and 2016. Problems with these historically black universities can be traced back to the politics of higher education funding post-1994 and the decision by the state to reduce higher education institutions from 36 to 21 through the mechanism of mergers. One of the key reasons for the merger of institutions of higher learning was to facilitate transformation and improve (especially black) students’ access to higher education and financial support. However, it appears that many of these ideals were not achieved post the mergers because many universities are still marked by differences based on the material, cultural and social positions of their separate histories"